All the way through John’s gospel, the author likes to use the word “sign” to describe the miracles that Jesus does. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee.” “This was now the second sign the Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” And so on. That word choice, of course, isn’t accidental. John wants us to see that the miracles Jesus performed were signs that point us to something else—Jesus’ identity as the messiah, Jesus’ identity as God incarnate, and Jesus’ identity as the one with power over heaven and earth.
As Jesus performs one sign after another, the reader is left with the impression that there are two groups of people whom he encounters. Some in the crowds are able to see that to which the signs are pointing. They make the connection between miracle and the miracle worker and the one who sent him. Many others, however, fail to see past the signs themselves. Like a person who pulls of the interstate at the “Rest Area” sign and takes a nap at the base of the sign, they are the ones who get caught up in the feat of wonder without ever looking past it.
In today’s gospel lesson, Philip says something that really ticked off Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” “What do you mean, ‘Show us the Father?’” Jesus snapped back. “How can you ask me that? Have you been with me all this time and still you do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Don’t you get it?”
The point is, of course, that it isn’t always easy to get it. Seeing the connection between the miracle and the miracle worker and the one who sent him isn’t always easy. Why? Because the miracles themselves are so nifty. It’s neat to see water turned into wine. It’s amazing to see a paralytic stand up. How many people do you know who, after being nauseated for days, worry about why they suddenly feel better? “Just give me the miracle. I don’t care where it comes from!”
But God asks wants more for us. He wants us to make the connection. He wants us to see that it’s him doing the work—that it isn’t just a magic man but the Son of God—that Jesus is more than a worker of wonders—that he’s our savior. But you know what? If you can’t get that far today, that’s ok. Sometimes recognizing God’s work as a gift is enough.
As his exasperation subsides, Jesus says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” Think about all the things God has done in your life. Bring to mind all of the good and wonderful things you have seen and heard and experienced. If you can at least see that there are amazing, beautiful, grace-filled gifts all around, that’s a start. And God can take that start and build upon it. First, recognize the gifts for what they are, and then see if you can discover the giver.